There are plenty of reasons to hate reality TV. A valid argument could be made that reality television hasn't existed -- at least not in the truest sense of the word -- since that first season of The Real World. Back then, people who wanted to be famous didn't preen for the camera and start fake fights just to get into a TMZ report. The sexual tension between Kevin and Julie was real, damnit!
It's why so many shows today are referred to as unscripted rather than reality. Think of them as much less sophisticated versions of improvisational comedy, like the first couple of seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with far less talented people and results such that calling them mixed would be overly generous.
But standing tall in the wasteland of unscripted reality TV is Duck Dynasty. Oh, sure, I occasionally watch Storage Wars or even some Food Network shows like Mystery Diners or Restaurant: Impossible, but DD is head-and-shoulders superior. On Wednesday, they air their annual Christmas special. It promises to be a full hour of nonstop redneck stupidity, and I'll be glued to the TV -- more accurately, the DVR. Here's why.
5. These are likable people.
Like the show or not, it's difficult to find the Robertson clan objectionable. Maybe the killing of random critters might be a bit much for the more squeamish viewer, but there is no doubt these people care about one another, and that comes through. They are genuinely amused by and interested in each other, making it all the more entertaining. Also, they are who they are without hesitation and they've managed to be themselves while amassing a fortune first as entrepreneurs, then as TV superstars. They are living the American dream and who am I to judge?
4. Ci and Phil are as as good a characters as have ever been written for TV.
In one episode, Willie ducked (pun intended) career day to go hunting. He sent his father, Phil, and his Uncle Ci in his stead. As Phil literally demonstrated to a science class how to gut and dress a duck, Ci told a group of five-year-olds about the terrors of Vietnam. It was as cringe-worthy as it sounds and also really, really funny. Ci is the Cosmo Kramer of the redneck reality world. 3. They are much smarter than people think.
People don't become rich and famous, while sustaining both and managing to remain nearly scandal free, without a strategy. There is no doubt the Robertsons have created a carefully crafted image and worked very hard to exaggerate their Louisiana swamp lives (never mind the fact that they live in McMansions near the swamp rather than in trailers in it) in just such a way as to be entertaining...and it has worked. Credit where credit is due.
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2. The art of the long pause.
I'm not sure if the editors do this or if they just have good comedic timing, but few have mastered the art of the long pause better than the Robertsons. To watch the camera pan around the room to the blank stares of the various characters after some ridiculous Ci utterance is wickedly smart comedy.
1. It's funny.
Duck Dynasty is a sitcom. It's done in a reality style, but it is most assuredly meant to be a comedy. Some of the lines sound so rehearsed, it's hard to believe the show wasn't created by Lorne Michaels and written by Judd Apatow. It may not exactly be highbrow, but I would argue that it's not lowbrow either. It's certainly much more sophisticated than schlock like the Jeff Foxworthy Show and kicks the ass of rehashed nonsense like Two Broke Girls. Not bad for a bunch of redneck duck hunters from Louisiana.